Monday, 24 December 2012

Horton Plains is made of moss

Pic by Dilshan Boange

Eyes have swept the plains
rolled over hillock
moved with wind on grass
surveyed the trees
looked for Sambur,
dropped from World’s End
risen with spray
where the elephant slaughterer
did not fall,
taken in the slope
of Kirigalpotha
alighted on Ravana’s port
delighted in April’s bloomage
picked at ferns
strange and familiar,
and missed the moss
those touch-me-nots
of wide eyed sweep
of things visit-marked,
softer though,
more delicate to touch
to those with sight.


Friday, 21 December 2012


And of prisons it was thus decreed
some would be bar-made and some unbarred
some to separate the free from the incarcerated
and some with lines erased,
yes so erased
that ‘free’ comes with query mark
and imprisonment is the worst kept secret
in the metropolis.
And of the former kind,
there are those who are bowled,
and those less picture-perfect.
The goldfish looks with compassion
and knows the futility of keeping notes
but we,
we eye one another with pity
and even empathy
keep notes;
we might as well collect mirrors
while we wait the clock-guard
to interrupt the monotony of delusion
if nothing else.


Sunday, 16 December 2012


Man and elephant
beast and beast
they’ve stared
at one another
stared down, backed off
trampled and shot
fallen and picked up
an ancient love-hate
in a modern twist
of encroachment
unrolling of map
of traditional homeland
but here
for now
there is peace
(of a kind)
one shoots
and the other gets shot,
beast and beast
in informal ‘acceptability’
of grudge and shrug.

[Inspired by the photography of Rukshan Abeywansa, published in the FINE Section of 'The Nation', December 16, 2012]


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Prabuddha IX

This is the ninth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI , VII and VIII were published in
He was hero thereafter

To those who wore bellbottoms and mini skirts

to those with hair gathered high

and stylishly tied

to those thick lipped

and with long fingernails

to married women

lascivious and seductive.


And they cast their lustful glance

with puckered lips all lipsticked

but not for his voice

or handsome face

‘Vernon went abroad

for a conference

how about a weekend, darling,

let’s say in Belihuloya?’


But whatever the gains

whatever the heights he scaled

his mind was steadily impoverished

his soul lay felled and sprawled on the ground.


Those lipsticked lips

were red and full of mindless lust

and mascara-ridden eye-edge

burned with envy;

cutting through the convivial conversation

was hatred, unadulterated.



empty this life is

barren it is.


just beneath the flimsy gold

in the intersection of fragrances

between fingers of hands

extended for shake, for greeting

the contours of hypocrisy

in its full nudity.’



over and over again,

he felt.  


They were at the table

these well-groomed folk

important personalities

pushing away in their drunkenness

the polished silverware

grabbing with both sides

devouring the meats

dripping with juices and saliva

and he thought:

‘I too am like a creature

fed and fattened

for table, for feast.’


‘You are an outsider

among them

a foreigner;

this is no place for you




But I cannot go,

cannot leave you.

I’ve sold my soul to the merchants

just to please your mind

gladden your heart,

sold it to the merchants

to be one with you.

And since then

and until now

I’ve known no peace

just disillusionment

an emptiness



And to unfetter myself from regret

from disillusionment

I spill wine with friends

until midnight and beyond

until freed of memory

until senseless,

gambled in gambling dens

until event last cent was gone.

And yet there is no peace,

no contentment, no relief.

Come consciousness

and the mind breaks into sobs:

“You must leave!”

But I cannot

I cannot leave you.’


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Various absences

When you go away
and when you come
when you weep
tears to addresses
other than mine,
toss name
again and again
float in a teenage stupor
from rehearsal to concert
to photograph and photo-edit
when you sit here
and when I feel I am absent
and absented
through all this and more
now and again
you are


Thursday, 6 December 2012

For hearts that wait for hearts that may never arrive

Its genetic signature is such
that it is resilient
to the blows of rejection
the horrors of post-love displacement
keeps doors open
until the harsh winds of rejection
blow them away
and applauds the vulnerability
thus enforced
cheering the door-less walls
waiting for arrival with sunlight
of in the stealth of night
a moonlight bathed entrance
and hums the theme songs
of togethernesses
longed for
and if by chance
and if by error
the heart-thief drops by,
if apologies are rendered
for mistake and uninvited peep,
the heart is so made
that it breaks
like Faiz said a long time ago
it breaks and breaks
into hopeless longing again
and again.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Prabuddha VIII

This is the eighth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII were published in
From that moment
he was one of them
from that moment
he too danced with them
in tune and in step
in perfect harmony.

It was the festival of intoxication:
floating in alcoholic stupor
lost in lust
high on power greed
high on money need.

And the lecherous eye
cast its inevitable glance
not on his incomparable voice
but its profit potential. 

From then on
he mixed sweetner into love
stirred it up into lust
poured his voice
and let it sit
trapped in the circularity  
of music record.

They were sold in the thousands
these intoxicating discs
his voice swirled in city mansions
echoed among splendid furniture
wafted from balconies.
His voice descended from up above
wandered from avenue to road to pathways
city to town to village
into the ears of impressionable youth;
and they began wearing bellbottoms
wrapped around themselves large, wide belts,
gathered in street corner and junction
danced the twist
sang with him
‘‘The time it is a-passing
to freeze it all,
hold it tight
this is it,
fun, fun, fun!’

The voice that went away like wind
came back as shining silver rupee coins.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Prabuddha VII

This is the seventh part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI were published in

Then someone said,
‘Heard you are an artist
how about a song?’

Prabuddha went to the piano
As though seeing a dear friend
When lost, alone and helpless in a far off country.

‘Jagan mohinee…..madhura bhaashinee
charu dehinee…kamala vaasinee
sarasvathee devee…vande
sarasvathee devee…..

Kampitha kanchana maala poojitha kinkini noopura jaalaaa
paada saroje katee thataake chanchala narthana leela

They stared
as though he sang the incomprehensible
in an incomprehensible tongue
ill at ease the seemed.

Is this not sweet, this music? 
or have they heard music sweeter still?
do they not understand
tell, pray, what reason for this silence?

‘Master!  This does not please
and not for lack of appreciation,
a pop song it was
that all expected!’

‘A pop song!  A pop song!’
they cried

‘Hey, come one, come all!’
come dance, come sing
for the time it is a-passing
to freeze it all,
Hold it tight
This is it,
fun, fun, fun!
Money, money, money
money to eat
money to drink
money for meat, the choicest cuts
money for drink, the finest wines
got to live for the day
got to have the rupees and the cents
got to do the whatever-it-takes
got to do the whoever-gets-hurt
got to have the money, money, money
hey, come on, come all,
come baby, it’s time to dance
time for fun
time for games,
time to sing and dance
time to forget all
for this, baby, is it
the ultimate
paradise and nothing else!’


Big bellied men, tall and stout
wheezing women, wide of waist
arose from a stupor
tapped their feet, shook their legs
waved arm, threw back head
Set a-trembling their excess flesh:
‘Got to do the whatever-it-takes
got to do the whoever-gets-hurt’
Arm around waist
they hugged and danced
embraced and kissed
swaying in wine-drenched dream
parents, kids, grandkids,
lost in the half-conscious of song
found in the fully-awake of lust
in an incestuous blend and blur.
‘For the time it is a-passing
to freeze it all,
hold it tight
this is it,
fun, fun, fun!’
The minister came up,
offered hand:
‘You are a great artist
Yasodha kissed him:
‘Beautiful darling,
so wonderful!’

Inferiority complex had left the building
where embarrassment hid, he did not know
‘I cannot myself remember yesterday
and all of you and I, we are one,
we are equal now!’


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Face etchings

In line
in texture
skin colour
and the contortions
provoked by moment,
in the intensity of gaze
dropping of glance
are birthed
a hundred transparencies;
there are communities
laid upon these features
histories etched in curve
in scar
in wrinkle
as trial and injustice
triumph and contentment
love and equanimity
and also
as unspeakable
best left undeciphered
for reasons of decency
and the sanctity
of the unstoppable
need to object,
to rebel
and survive

[Inspired by the photography of Nalaka Sanjeewa and published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation']


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ode to ‘Somedays’

There are so many somedays
that have crept between other words
between innuendo and silence
sudden appearances
and long absences
so many somedays
for somethings
that if a day comes
'Here I am, tell me!"
I might pour it all out as tears
or just die.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

A heart-line song

So they made lines
and marked with sign
and underlined with red
for emphasis:
No no no no no no no!
They built walls on either side
used backhoes to make deep
forbidding trench
placed broken glass atop the wall
bred crocodiles to feed on those who strayed;
reinforced for good measure
with resolute steel
planted crosses for crucifixion
if need be
and passed stories of this and that
of terrible consequences.
But heart has no eyes
to read warning signs
no ear to hear objection
no tongue to protest
no fingers to test cut-glass prohibition
could not smell foul odors of repulsive dictate,
the heart could only love and love and love
and that's what it does,
as it always did
as it always will.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Prabuddha VI

This is the sixth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha', an exercise that has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera. Parts I, II, III, IV and V were published in

From there,
that classy vantage point
he could sweep gaze
he could capture
the world in miniature
a teeny weeny ant-sized universe
corrugated lives
box-wood living
and peeping through these
human forms
wasted and miserable
spawn and breeders of squalor
ragged and wretched
marked with gutter stench
meandering by drain and ditch.

It wafted this foul odor
from those unnamed sewers
and birth revulsion
made head turn away
moved gaze toward feast.

In the visitors’ room
the guests made merry,
the well nourished and oversized
tie-coated gentlemen
doubled-chinned, wide-waisted chairmen
of corporate and corporation
and lawyers too,
covering pate with hair strands
carefully taken from one side to the other
in a delicate crossing,
entrepreneurs too
decorated with political patronage
who even wear the national dress
and even lubricate election campaigns.

There were women there
hair all done
high on fashion
neatly pinned
thickened lips and pointed fingernails
eyes half opened in allurement
flesh spilling at the waist
fanning themselves
chin up glances
from half closed eyes
and all these vanities
staying for awhile
the fading ways of beauty.

Then there was youth,
young men and women
long, unkempt locks
falling around shoulders
unisexed in hairstyle and wristwatch  
big belts keeping up
tight pants with countless pockets
miniskirts and bellbottoms
carefree in appearance
but seemingly lost

And into their midst
floated Yasodha
a swan surely
that descends upon
and glides along the water.

Something changed right then
a different buzz went around the room
he felt small
and shy. 

He felt a dwarf in a Gulliverian world
a stranger on foreign soil.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Prabuddha Part V

This is the fifth part of the translation of Mahagama Sekera's epic poem 'Prabuddha'

And thereafter he saw.
He saw the thousands
starve and sweat
to build mansions.

And thereafter he saw.
He saw the thousands
starve and sweat
to fill those same houses. 
And thereafter he saw.
He saw them fight
saw them compete with one another
for more power, higher office, bigger position.
He saw thereafter
all the invisibles around him

It was a dream mansion:
Yasodha’s house
with its white wall
steel gates
marbled floors
covered with thick red carpets,
finely crafted furniture
innumerable artifacts and ornaments
ornate chandeliers
from exotic lands
and when he saw these comforts
Prabuddha felt diminished,
the fairytale dream dissolved
it fell and shattered
on the hardened earth
of unforgiving noontime light.

‘If only I could be one of them!’
That was the beginning of another dream-tale.
‘I see now the distance, Yasodha,
the chasm between us;
all I have is my birthright of poverty
and nothing like this splendor you own,
do you understand,
I have nothing,
nothing like this!’

‘And yet I love you!’

And so he climbed;
up the stairs he went
with her
hand in hand
and his soul took flight
encased in shoes well-polished
firmly boxed
in shirt and trouser, tie and coat.

From high above he saw the city
the houses tall and short,
the wide avenues and narrow lanes
and the masses
scurrying along, hither and thither
running the races of their choice
he saw the tiny cars
stopped on either side
in shapes never imagined before,
and as he reached the top floor
there was a dint of pride:
‘I too am one of them!’

This translation has the permission and blessings of the immediate family of Mahagama Sekera
[Parts I, II, III and IV were published in]  

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Beyond light and dark

So we light
one lamp after another
row upon row
and they send arrows
to dissect the dark
illuminate face
of lighter and lit
and the oil feeds
burns wick
and dies
and darkness recovers
traditional homeland
but in the aftermath
of festivity and fire
in the after-death of light
and the re-encroachment of night
nothing forbids
a re-ignition
a turning of symbol
an illumination
of the eternal verities
the true dimensions
of atman
and the negation of definitive line
and all other errors
light-quenched and lit.

[Inspired by the photography of Rukshan Abeywansha and published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation']


Monday, 12 November 2012

Prabuddha IV

This is the 4th part of my translation of Mahagama Sekera's celebrated epic poem 'Prabuddha'

She came
like the moon peering over mountain
like water leafing over rock
like frozen music
sweet and full of spirit
as she got off the car.

And hearts stop and stutter
as an evening wind brings
the image-issue
in the sky of a dying sun.

He forgot himself
forgot the violin
and all he knew
of string and bow
as she sat on gold hued carpet
listening, learning,
saw he long fingers dance
on violin string.

You are the violin in my hand
music is nothing if not your voice
and as you caress my heart string
you draw out music as yet unheard. 
I was blind, was without speech
until I saw,
until I heard

The countless stars
lit up the limitless universe
the moon grazed on tree top
with its cloud entourage
the blue shades of the bamboo grove
played and played
on the river’s gurgling waters
in the dim-light of dusk;
and you
whispered soft music
into my ready ear. 

The moonlight-white
of breast and nipple
that grazed and pinched garment;
did you not notice
the immense pain
it inflicted?

And day by day
new and renewed
you arrived
and when you did, sweetness,
I felt
again and again
‘I have nothing!’

[Parts I, II and III were published in]

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Skin-scratch draws blood
each un-layering draws more
reveals much more,
the sinew and tear
scar and welt
the discomfiture we hide
with elegant smile-cloth
and practiced uttering
and each veil-wall
exiles the world
imposes incarceration
consecrates private pain
celebrates fracture
and the world revolves
in its preferred disguises
the preferred speeds of lie
and self-delusion
and we become the sum
of our anxieties
the nothing
of abandoned
and wrecked solidarity. 

[Inspired by the photography of Amanda Jayawardhana, exhibited at 'Upanetha', first published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation', November 11, 2012]